Suraj Morajkar, head honcho of Sun Estates Developers, Goa is a prominent member of Goan high society, known for his opulent parties and equally flamboyant personality, with a guest list extending to the who’s who of the Indian film industry.
What makes him stand out, however, is the extraordinary story of his success. Suraj is a first-generation businessman and in the short span of time, since its inception, the rise of his enterprise to the forefront of Goa’s real estate industry has been meteoric. His humility and down-to-earth attitude, though are what truly set him apart.
I have known Suraj for a long time. At the time of our first meeting, he was already an established real estate developer in Goa, but when I heard the story of his struggle and success, I found something truly worth writing home about. However, convincing him to sit down and answer my questions, was a mammoth task in itself. Below are a few excerpts from our interview.
Suraj, whose name is synonymous with Goa’s luxury real estate sector, has built homes for celebrities like actors Neha Dhupia, and Chunky Pandey; cricketer Yuvraj Singh; designer Ritu Kumar; Eicher Motors MD, Vikram Lal; and former CEO, Café Coffee Day, Naresh Malhotra, to name a few.
Suraj began his entrepreneurial journey at the age of 24, with a proprietary firm having an initial investment of 90 thousand rupees in the year 1996. Today, his business has grown to be a whopping 250 crore company.
Before he became a real estate magnate, however, he dabbled extensively in the entertainment industry. “I am the first person to bring many big ticket events here and in fact, I was instrumental in bringing that Deep Purple and Channel V into this tiny beautiful state called Goa,” he said, adding that this is a very old story that goes back more than two decades, “In fact, that is how I am very well connected with the Bollywood film industry. It was due to those connections that I decided to enter the real estate sector that was booming in the late 90s in Goa.”
According to Suraj, there is no dearth of luxury housing in Goa, as Goans are used to living life in luxury. “What we have done is shift old wine into a new bottle,” he said. He tells me that houses in Goa have always been large and independent with ample space around them post-independence. “We just replicated the same concept when I saw that we are losing that Goan touch with the rampant development that had started taking place. I decided to create individual housing that comes with a piece of land and water body surrounding it and that was very much accepted by our buyers.”
If you look at the real Goa, away from the developed cities, people still live in individual and large homes and these show Portuguese architecture spread across various parts of the state. “The famous Latin Quarters, or Fountainhas, also has large bungalows with fine architectural work done on them with dozens of rooms inside. I have always wanted to build something like that with additional options of providing modern facilities like swimming pools because that is the real Goa for me. I wanted to keep the concept of Goa, clubbed with international design and we made sure that locations were good. I must say that we were lucky as the buyers understood our concept and we maintained consistency throughout.”
Suraj has been working in the field of real estate development for more than 2 decades and to date, he has never compromised on quality and products. “We provide top-notch products in our luxury villas and most of our business has been generated through the recommendation of our satisfied clients,” said Suraj. With regard to his celebrity clientele that has bought second homes from him, he said, “I never catered to any one segment of society that you address as ‘big people’ but instead we have strived to create products that attracted these so-called big people.”
Suraj Morjkar is known to be an exuberant persona, with great connections in the film industry and big business houses in India, but when asked about this, he responded, “I think that is just the perception people have of me. I always worked with people who have loved and appreciated my work, regardless of their profession and social standing, I have a famous Indian cricket player who has purchased his second home from me and there are celebrities, music directors and bankers, but what matters most here is consistency and that I maintain at all cost.”
About the challenges he faced while selling his luxurious villas, Suraj said that he has not faced any obstacles to date. “When you create a good product, a dream home, it automatically attracts buyers from all walks of life. We never went and knocked at the doors of people to sell them our villas, instead, we believed in our product and kept innovating with time.”
Suraj has always believed in creating luxury villas, choosing to avoid constructing apartment structures. When I asked him about this, he replied that he did build apartments in the beginning. “We have and continue to build a few apartments with class and good commercial value to them. We started with beach-facing apartments when I entered this industry. It’s certainly not the case that I went straight to luxury villas. However, over the last two decades, we have only built luxury villas. The main reason behind this is that we felt that this is the most lucrative field.”
According to Suraj, his company pioneered to the introduction of the concept of luxury housing in Goa in the form of duplex apartments. “We were the first to introduce duplex apartments in the 90s where we provided the double height in the living room and a way to the bedroom on the first floor from it. But there were some limitations to those apartments – it was only possible near the coastal areas, and brought on a specific type of clientele since it is a tourist attraction. Anyone wanting a second home in Goa would prefer to live closer to the beach.”
Ever one to seize an emerging opportunity, Suraj extended his business to the Goan Hospitality industry as well, with the creation of his first project called Sol de Goa. “We collaborated with a renowned Indian fashion designer, Tarun Tahiliani, to design Sol de Goa and luckily he was the design director for our new project at the Hilton as well, which is Sun Estate Developers’ most monumental project. We started the Hilton project in 2015 and completed it by the end of 2019,” he said.
Suraj wanted to make this Hilton a statement product and brought on some of the most well-known international architects to collaborate with him in the creation of this mammoth project. His company signed with Hilton Goa 10 years back but it took almost 4 years to finalise the design. “The biggest challenge that we faced was the starting of the hotel after it was completed because of the pandemic. When we launched it in 2020, once the pandemic subsided, it was a big challenge for us but we managed to overcome that phase and today the Hilton at Saipem is one of the biggest projects in Goa’s hospitality sector, and is owned by a first-generation Goan entrepreneur.”
Suraj has also re-developed a property situated in the heritage zone of the capital city while maintaining its old-world appearance. “When I got the opportunity for the redevelopment in the conservative zone, I decided to create a statement product and for that project, I engaged the international architect company,” he said.
A firm believer in competing only with himself, Suraj says “I don’t believe in competing with others because I believe you are your own competition. This is something you can see in every one of my new projects. Each is always better than the previous one,” he said.
The Next Big Thing
When I asked Suraj about the next big thing he is planning, he said “I am working on a new project featuring super luxury villas that will be coming up in the Arambol area of North Goa. We have already acquired the land and are working on the final plan. This project is unique as the villas are situated inside a hotel property and will be managed by the hotel,” he said. Suraj tells me that these new super luxury villas will not be available in the open market to purchase, “We will be selling these villas only on invitation. We sell to people who understand our products. I don’t like people who try to hard negotiate. I am not against negotiation, since I believe that is their choice. But when it goes too far, I realise that this product is not meant for them. It’s not our ego, but we believe that the right person should reside at the right address,” he added. “We will build homes that will be looking out to the ocean and we are also bringing in many new talents that we are training at the Hilton who will shift to the Arambol project once it’s completed. We have also offered this opportunity to the people from my village who want to learn the tricks of the trade and make their careers in the hospitality industry. We are planning to make a golf course which is another new project that is in the pipeline.”
The Bollywood Connection
Suraj is known for having very good connections to the Indian film industry – something that can be seen by glancing at the list of the celebrities who have purchased his villas in Goa. In fact, many of them shared video messages wishing him a happy birthday. “Those video messages were compiled by my daughter as a birthday surprise for me. I didn’t ask them to send those messages! They have been my friends for more than 2 decades: it’s all about maintaining the relationship that has matured over a period of time.”
Suraj Morajkar is known for developing areas that were not situated on the coastal belt. Undertaking high-value projects along the coast is easy but creating a state-wide presence and reputation requires the strength and temerity to persevere. Suraj has worked differently compared to other developers creating a niche for himself in this sector. “People in the 80s and 90s were only aware of areas like Baga, and Calangute, not Nerul and Saipem. I decided to give the people a different choice, away from the seashore – with a little more privacy. Celebrities and big pocket buyers do not want to live in areas that are densely populated and our North Goa beaches are the most populated ones in the state. I saw that opportunity and provided properties in villages like Nerul and Saipem, a little way away from the hustle and bustle of the beaches, to maintain my clients’ privacy.”
Suraj Morajkar has always worked to develop his village and thus create employment for its people. “We have provided employment opportunities to more than 500 people who are directly or indirectly working with us, in our real estate company and hospitality ventures. During the times of Covid when taxi drivers and other daily-wage earners lost their jobs, Hilton Goa Resort provided them with employment and supported them by bringing a football team into the hotel. Transport and other amenities required by the team were taken care of by the hotel while provided to the taxi drivers.